Dr. Freya Spicer-White, Head of Autism and Neurodiversity Practice, shares the organisation’s new Autism Strategy – ‘Ask, Accept, Develop’
An autistic young person can face many challenges during the typical school day. Among the most common of these are: learning unaligned with their skills and interests, overwhelming sensory environments, the navigation of social interactions and the potential for unpredictable changes to the school routine.
Autistic students can be high achievers in the subjects that they enjoy, however they may struggle to focus on those subjects that do not ignite their interest and passion, so accessing the curriculum can prove challenging. School can be a place where they often feel forced to engage in topics or activities that do not interest them, or in the worst case, upset them.
School corridors covered in posters and decorations, dining halls filled with overpowering food related smells and playgrounds teeming with loud and noisy peers, all contribute to an inhospitable sensory environment for many autistic young people.
The social aspects of life can also make school a confusing and sometimes daunting place which impacts their wellbeing and self-esteem. Navigating new social groups and existing friendships can be tricky for autistic young people, and situations such as these can lead to frequent misunderstandings or student’s spending the day ‘camouflaging’ and masking their neurodiversity.
The unavoidable last minute changes to the timetable or a substitute teacher can also be distressing. The school day can be exhausting, frustrating and stressful and often makes learning feel impossible.